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Publisher's Summary

As the United States marks the 150th anniversary of our defining national drama, 1861 presents a gripping and original account of how the Civil War began.

1861 is an epic of courage and heroism beyond the battlefields. Early in that fateful year, a second American revolution unfolded, inspiring a new generation to reject their parents' faith in compromise and appeasement, to do the unthinkable in the name of an ideal. It set Abraham Lincoln on the path to greatness and millions of slaves on the road to freedom.

The book introduces us to a heretofore little-known cast of Civil War heroes - among them an acrobatic militia colonel, an explorer's wife, an idealistic band of German immigrants, a regiment of New York City firemen, a community of Virginia slaves, and a young college professor who would one day become president. Adam Goodheart takes us from the corridors of the White House to the slums of Manhattan, from the mouth of the Chesapeake to the deserts of Nevada, from Boston Common to Alcatraz Island, vividly evoking the Union at this moment of ultimate crisis and decision.

©2011 Adam Goodheart (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Audie Award Winner, History, 2012
“With boundless verve, Adam Goodheart has sketched an uncommonly rich tableau of America on the cusp of the Civil War. The research is impeccable, the cast of little-known characters we are introduced to is thoroughly fascinating, the book is utterly thought-provoking, and the story is luminescent. What a triumph.” (Jay Winik, author of New York Times best-sellers April 1865 and The Great Upheaval)
"Engrossing .... Tension is palpable on every page .... Goodheart's book is an impressive accomplishment, a delightful read, and a valuable contribution that will entertain and challenge." (Harvard Magazine)
"Exhilarating ... inspiring ... irresistible ... 1861 creates the uncanny illusion that the reader has stepped into a time machine." (New York Times Book Review, cover review)
"In his marvelous book... Goodheart brings us into 19th-century America, as ambiguous, ambitious and fractured as the times we live in now, and he brings to pulsing life the hearts and minds of its American citizens." (Huffington Post)
“Jonathan Davis's narration sets the scene with hints of foreboding, creating a feeling of tension about the impending war. He draws listeners into stories of people like recaptured slave Lucy Bagby and future president James Garfield….Goodheart's meticulous research and lively writing will appeal to any history buff.” (AudioFile)
"Beautifully written and thoroughly original--quite unlike any other Civil War book out there." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Susan
  • PUNTA GORDA, FL, United States
  • 04-15-14

Read this then read 12 years a Slave.

Would you consider the audio edition of 1861: The Civil War Awakening to be better than the print version?

It was for me, I fall asleep when reading, I like to work around the house and listen or because I fly a lot I listen on planes.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Don't have a favorite, wait yes Lincoln

Have you listened to any of Jonathan Davis’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No but I will now

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I wanted to go back and remember history, I wanted to remember the sacrifces these men made for all of us.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Blake
  • Portland, OR, United States
  • 11-30-13

I'll be instening to this one again.

This was only my second civil war specific book, but I'm pretty fascinated by 19th century American history, and this book is one of the best I've read in that category. It's written like a compilation of behind the scenes stories that give background on the complexities of American culture and politics during this pivotal time. Adam Goodheart's writing does an incredible job of capturing the humanity of the characters in his stories, and is a master of the art of nuance. I'll begrudgingly give a thumbs up to Jonathan Davis' narration job here. I generally find his cadence a bit annoying, and his tone too official, but I must admit that he did a good job on this one, even if he's not my cup if tea stylistically. But overall, this is an excellent choice, not just for civil war buffs, but for all American history lovers.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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So Many Things Make Sense Now

This book put so many things about the beginnings of the civil war into perspective for me. I really did not know many of these things. It helps me make sense of it all. Of course, no war makes sense, but now I can see better how it came to be. For example, I never really understood about Fort Sumpter, and now I do. I think I had it backwards in my mind, something like the north firing on the south who were in the fort. Truth is, it is exactly the opposite of that. I also did not realize the role California, Kansas and other non-southern states played in the war. I certainly never understood how Lincoln's view of slavery and the war changed over time. I did not realize that the war was, at least outwardly, not about abolition, but about state's rights. As time went on, it had to be about slavery. How could half of the country fight for freedom and then turn around and approve slavery for the other half of the country? And many more interesting things. I really want to read this book again sometime. I am sure it will be even better the second time.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • Hoeilaart, Belgium
  • 12-10-12

Wonderful History

This is how history ought to be written and narrated. Goodheart pulls together a multitude of strands and weaves them into a image of the US in perhaps its most critical year.

Davis does the book justice with clear, consistent and engaged narration. I listened to this audiobook twice a few months apart.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Primer for Understanding Civil War

If you could sum up 1861: The Civil War Awakening in three words, what would they be?

Slavery Sucks...how is it possible to sum up that book in 3 words!?

What other book might you compare 1861: The Civil War Awakening to and why?

Don't know. Haven't learned about the Civil War since I was in grade school in the 19th century

What does Jonathan Davis bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Great readers like Mr. Davis brings the story alive. If you just read it, the material might get a little dry.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were several. The standoff at Fort Sumter was pretty bizarre. It might have started the war when it all seemed a little silly. I also enjoyed reading about President Lincoln. Can't wait to see the movie.

Any additional comments?

Generally, I liked the book because I wanted to better understand American History in that era. I never realized how slavery was such a big deal back then...especially viewing it in 21st century lens. Slavery was simply despicable and was somehow allowed to continue in the slave states. It's hard to reconcile All Men are Created Equal in the Declaration of Independence while the author of this document owned (and fornicated with) slaves. Go figure.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim
  • Hillsboro, OH, United States
  • 09-13-12

Very, Very Good !

1861: Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart and read by Jonathon Davis.

The quality of the recording and narration is quite good.
The idea to explore and present just one year during the Civil War (and 1861 in particular) is splendid because it enables the author to give the reader an encompassing view of the people, places and times that actually helps the reader focus well enough to understand the era, not merely witness it piecemeal.
By 1861, the politicians and their corps of junkyard dogs (The Press) – both North and South - had so misinformed and inflamed and frustrated the people of the young United States that Civil War was virtually inevitable. The list of various reasons why so many ordinary, nice people decided to go fight a war against their own countrymen was as long as it was wrong. Worse yet, most of the people who would do the fighting (and suffering and dying) were almost completely unaware of the price they would be paying.
The nice, everyday Northern shopkeepers and farmers thought they were going to put on a “chick-magnet” uniform, ride the train to Richmond, kick Jeff Davis in the fanny at which time the South would surrender, and they would be back for Spring planting. Newly-minted “soldiers” of the South – all baptized by Sir Walter Scott’s wine of Chivalry were all going fly off on their Thoroughbreds to win a jousting tournament that would shut all the Yankees up once and for all, and then they would be back in a couple weeks to sip mint juleps on the verandas they didn’t have and bask in the adoration of the Damsels Fair they didn’t know.
Bad news, Guys. Not!
None of them realized they were going to sleep in cold, muddy fields and under the branches of a bug-infested woods and shoot or stab other naïve, lied-to farmers and shopkeepers to death. None stopped to think what it would feel like to breathe gunsmoke all day and then spend the Spring evenings gathering and burying the torn bodies of their friends and neighbors. And then spend all night listening to the wails of the wounded.
They didn’t know a full third of them would die from common illnesses alone, like dysentery and measles, scurvy and flu.

Goodheart gives the reader real 1861 people, both great and small, without all the blarney and revisionist propaganda of the pseudo-education in our schools. In so doing, he puts the reader right in the middle of “United States 1861: RealTime”. Goodheart leads you into the muddy streets of the uncompleted Capitol and the squalor of slave markets and the brutish façade of Congress and the naïve parlors and town meetings - both North and South, and the troubled salons of all of Europe as they watched the Great Experiment in the Rights of Man. You will see and here Everybody, not just the newspapers and political pundits. You will meet the Zouaves and the Wide-Awakes and farmers and women and teachers that could have been your relatives and neighbors. You will see at street level the flaws and hypocrisies of the religion of the day, of the Abolitionists, of the Copperheads, of the Press et al, and likely will see a much clearer and interesting view of Abe Lincoln than the political distortions we’ve all grown up with. You will also be entertained, and amazed, at what you would have been doing every day in 1861 to make up for not having so many of the things you take for granted today.
Of many, many books I’ve read and audiobooks I’ve listened to on the Civil war era, 1861: Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart is definitely one of the most enlightening and entertaining.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Bass guy
  • Penn Valley, PA, United States
  • 07-06-12

An amazing story, thoughtful and well done

I'm not a big "history buff" reader; I pick up an occasional book in this category when the reviews are decent. But this one honestly blew me away.

The story is nothing less than a complete account of the exact moment in time when our country was splitting apart into two pieces. You might feel like that is happening in our country right now, but I think you'll be amazed at how different (and at the same time how similar) conditions were back in 1860-61.

The author doesn't bother with a blow-by-blow "football game" account of the early battles of the Civil War. I find that kind of book to be pretty boring, and it's probably easy to find the information elsewhere. Instead, this is about the few key events happening at the very beginning of the conflict -- events that people might not have even assigned much importance too at the time -- that were going to change the entire character of the war and what came afterwards.

In summary, this book is brimming with what I like best about this genre -- keen insight and details that get missed or lost in other, more conventional history books. For all you non-history fans, give this one a try!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I Learned A Lot

I enjoyed this book. It wandered around the country in the time leading up to the Civil War and illustrated the mood of the country, capturing a moment in time. There was a lot about the campaign and election of Abraham Lincoln that I never knew or even suspected. It is quite a contrast viewing him before the Civil War versus the entrenched of him post-Civil War. I recommend this book as a unique view of American history full of interesting and little-known or -noticed nuggets.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great start to study 150 anniversary of Civil War

Superb way to start studying the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. This book uses 1861 as a starting point but goes back and forth in time weaving relevant details and stories into the events of 1861. The book 1861 is a combination of great material and great storytelling. It makes a terrific audiobook.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • KINGMAN, KS, United States
  • 03-20-12

An Interesting look at the Civil War

What did you love best about 1861: The Civil War Awakening?

There are several different vignettes within the story that illustrate what many different types of people were thinking as the Civil War began.

What did you like best about this story?

It was not a story of the battles, rather it was a story of the people and how the secession crisis changed how people looked at the world.

Which scene was your favorite?

I especially enjoyed the look at the

2 of 2 people found this review helpful